Major Grant for TechnoServe to Double Coffee Incomes of Small-Scale Farmers in East Africa

$46.9 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to help small-scale farmers improve coffee quality, increase produc

JANUARY 25, 2008 — Washington, DC A significant grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will allow TechnoServe to help small-scale coffee farmers in East Africa double their incomes.

The $46.9 million, four-year grant will fund an initiative to help approximately 180,000 farmers living on less than $2 a day improve the quality of their coffee. Better quality translates into higher prices and increased incomes that can help break the cycle of poverty. The initiative will be based on a collaborative approach between farmers and TechnoServe to develop local solutions for local needs. The grant is envisioned as the first phase of a larger TechnoServe program.

“The growing demand for premium coffee provides a real opportunity for many small-scale African coffee farmers to increase their incomes by improving the quality of their coffee,” says project director David Browning.

“Giving farmers the tools they need to develop their own local solutions has been an effective approach in our experience. Higher quality translates into higher incomes that can be invested in better health care and education. The farmers I talk to in Africa share the same dreams as parents everywhere: a good education for their children. It is inspiring to see those dreams realized and the cycle of poverty broken.”

Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, announced the TechnoServe grant at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland today as part of a package of agricultural development grants totaling $306 million. The package nearly doubles the foundation’s investments in agriculture since the launch of its Agricultural Development initiative in mid-2006.

The initiative, part of the Foundation’s Global Development Program, is focused on a range of interventions across the entire agricultural value chain – from planting the highest quality seeds and improving farm management practices to bringing crops to market. The Foundation believes that with strong partnerships and a redoubled commitment to agricultural development by donor and developing country governments, philanthropy and the private sector, hundreds of millions of small farmers will be able to boost their yields and incomes and lift themselves out of hunger and poverty.

“If we are serious about ending extreme hunger and poverty around the world, we must be serious about transforming agriculture for small farmers – most of whom are women,” says Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “These investments – from improving the quality of seeds, to developing healthier soil, to creating new markets – will pay off not only in children fed and lives saved. They can have a dramatic impact on poverty reduction as families generate additional income and improve their lives.”

TechnoServe will work with small-scale farmers in Kenya, Rwanda, and Tanzania to produce higher-quality coffee and to interact with the marketplace in a manner that will allow them to command premium prices. Specifically, TechnoServe will train selected small-scale farmers in skills that will improve coffee production and processing efficiency and sales, including training in quality coffee assessment (“cupping”) and agronomy in order to improve coffee yield and quality.

The TechnoServe Model

TechnoServe employs a bottom-up process that brings business advisors together with small-scale farmers earning less than $2 a day whose farms enjoy the unique agroclimatic conditions to produce coffee sought out by the world’s most discerning buyers.

“Producing gourmet wine requires the right soil, rainfall and altitude. The same is true for coffee,” says Browning.

TechnoServe has 40 years of experience working with small-scale coffee farmers. Over the past 10 years they have helped thousands of coffee farmers in Africa and Latin America to increase their incomes by improving the quality of their coffee.

TechnoServe provides the technical and business expertise farmers are looking for, and the farmers invest their own funds to upgrade quality and build a strong, reliable business that satisfies customer expectations. This has enabled farmer groups to sell directly to some of the world’s most demanding coffee buyers, and offers the potential for small-scale farmers to double their annual coffee income.

“We are honored to receive this grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and look forward to working with East African small-scale farmers to help them achieve their aspirations,” says TechnoServe president and CEO Bruce McNamer.

About TechnoServe: TechnoServe helps entrepreneurial men and women in the developing world to build businesses that provide jobs, income and economic opportunity. Since its founding in 1968, the U.S.-based nonprofit has helped to create or expand more than 2,000 businesses, benefiting millions of people in more than 30 countries. TechnoServe has been recognized as one of the world's “Outstanding Social Entrepreneurs” by the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship. In 2007, Charity Navigator also once again awarded its highest Four Star ranking to TechnoServe.

About the Gates Foundation: Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people’s health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people – especially those with the fewest resources – have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. Based in Seattle, the foundation is led by CEO Patty Stonesifer and co-chair William H. Gates Sr., under the direction of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett.